News

Raluca Ada Popa and Sanjam Garg awarded Hellman Fellowships

CS Assistant Professors Raluca Ada Popa and Sanjam Garg have been selected to receive Hellman Fellowships.  The Hellman Fellows Fund substantially supports "research of promising assistant professors who show capacity for great distinction in their research." Popa's interests include security, systems, and applied cryptography.  She has developed practical systems that protect data confidentiality by computing over encrypted data, as well as designed new encryption schemes that underlie these systems.  Garg's research interests are in cryptography and security, and more broadly in theoretical computer science.  His work on multilinear maps and obfuscation has found extensive applications in cryptography. Other recent EECS faculty recipients of this award include Thomas Courtade, Tapan Parikh, Michael Lustig, and Pieter Abbeel.

Shankar Sastry Awarded Berkeley Citation

Prof. Shankar Sastry was awarded the Berkeley Citation, one of the university's highest honors, at the College of Engineering's 2018 Commencement ceremony on March 15th.  It celebrated Sastry's tenure of more than a decade as the dean of engineering, which is ending this year.  The award, which was kept as a surprise, honors Sastry’s achievements and leadership. As dean, he helped lead the growth of the college’s educational and support programs for students, fostered opportunities for world-class research faculty, and increased Berkeley Engineering’s footprint, through the creation of new buildings, institutes and alliances and partnerships with other university and research partners.  “The last decade has been remarkable,” said Vice Chancellor Oscar Dubón, “thanks in no small part to Shankar’s vision, energy and enthusiasm for Berkeley and its students. With creative new approaches, he met the challenge of preparing our graduates for a changing world, increasing our focus on design, entrepreneurship, hands-on learning, and integrating business or clinical skills with engineering.”

Explainable AI could reduce the impact of biased algorithms

CS Assistant Prof. Joseph Gonzalez is quoted in an article for VentureBeat titled "Explainable AI could reduce the impact of biased algorithms."   The article discusses the ways human bias could potentially be introduced into machine learning-enabled systems and how General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) might help. Collecting data from the past is a common starting point for data science projects — but historical “data is often biased in ways that we don’t want to transfer to the future,” said Gonzalez.  “It is an incredibly hard problem...but by getting very smart people thinking about this problem and trying to codify a better approach or at least state what the approach is, I think that will help make progress.”

Microsoft acquires Semantic Machines

Semantic Machines, an artificial intelligence startup co-founded by Prof. Dan Klein and staffed by a number of EECS alumni, has been acquired by Microsoft to help Cortana hold more natural dialog with users.  The team has built a number of machine learning components which work together for a smarter AI, and move beyond the more basic back-and-forth currently supported by the Google Assistant, Apple’s Siri, and Amazon’s Alexa.

In addition to Klein, the team includes Percy Liang (Ph.D. '11), David Hall (Ph.D. '12), Adam Pauls (Ph.D. '12), David Burkett (Ph.D. '12), Jason Wolfe (Ph.D. '11 adviser: Stuart Russell), Yuchen Zhang (Ph.D. '16), Taylor Berg-Kirkpatrick (B.A. '08/Ph.D. '15), Greg Durrett (Ph.D. '16), Alex Nisnevich (M.S. '14), current grad student Jacob Andreas, Charles Chen (B.A. CS/Math '11), Andrew Nguyen (B.A. CS/Linguistics '12), Chuck Wooters (Ph.D. Speech Recognition '93), and consultant Prof. Michael Jordan.

150 Years of Innovation: John Whinnery: Fields and waves

EECS Prof. and alumnus John Whinnery (1916-2009, EE B.S. '37/Ph.D. '48 ) is the subject of a Berkeley Engineering article celebrating UC Berkeley's 150th year.  Whinnery served as director of the Electronics Research Laboratory from 1952-56, department chair from 1956-59, and dean of the College of Engineering from 1959-63. He was a distinguished innovator in the field of electromagnetism and communication electronics and was recognized as one of the country’s top experts on the fundamentals of quantum electronics.  He was awarded the IEEE Medal of Honor in 1985 and the National Medal of Science in 1992

SiFive receives $50.6M in series C funding

SiFive, a fabless provider of customized semiconductors built on research by alumnus Yunsup Lee (MS '11/Ph.D. '16), alumnus Andrew Waterman (M.S. '11/Ph.D. '16), and Prof. Krste Asanović, received $50.6M in series C funding in April.  Lee is Chief Technology Officer,  Waterman is Chief Engineer, and Asanović is Chief Architect at SiFive. The funding round was co-led by Osage University Partners, Sutter Hill Ventures, Spark Capital, and Intel Capital.  SiFive's semiconductors are built on Risc-V, an instruction set architecture (ISA), which acts as the conduit between a computer's software and hardware.  The series C round is being used to commercialize additional products based on Risc-V.  The company has raised $64.1M in funding to date.

Nick Carlini embeds hidden commands to Alexa and Siri in recordings of music and spoken text

CS graduate student Nicholas Carlini  is featured in a New York Times article titled "Alexa and Siri Can Hear This Hidden Command. You Can’t." He and his advisor, David Wagner, have published a paper showing they can embed audio instructions, undectable by human beings, directly into recordings of music or spoken text. They can secretly activate the artificial intelligence systems on smartphones and smart speakers, making them dial phone numbers or open websites. In the wrong hands, the technology could be used to unlock doors, wire money or buy stuff online — simply with music playing over the radio.  “We want to demonstrate that it’s possible,” he said, “and then hope that other people will say, ‘O.K. this is possible, now let’s try and fix it.’ ”  Carlini was among a group of researchers who showed in 2016 that they could hide commands in white noise played over loudspeakers and through YouTube videos to get smart devices to turn on airplane mode or open a website.

Rikky Muller is building brain implants to change lives

Assistant Prof. Rikky Muller is featured in an Institution of Mechanical Engineers" article titled "This machine can read your mind – engineers unlock secrets of the brain."  The article explores some of the newest breakthroughs in brain-machine interfaces, and some of the obstacles encountered by researchers.  Muller, a co-founder of Cortera Neurotechnologies,  discusses implant therapies like deep-brain stimulation (DBS) and assistive technologies like ‘intra-cortical recording’--where electrodes are inserted directly into patients’ neurons to allow them to control an external device.  She and her colleagues are working on miniaturising these technologies, to make them wireless and less invasive.  “Our vision is to create devices that are so small, safe and minimally invasive that they can be implanted in the patient for their lifetime,” she said.

Laura Waller on the appeal of working at the intersection of two fields

EE and CS Associate Prof. Laura Waller was interviewed by Computer Vision News in advance of her keynote address to the IEEE International Symposium on Biomedical Imaging (ISBI) in April.  She describes the appeal of working at the intersection of two fields:  design of optical systems and computational algorithms.  She also talks about breakthroughs in computational imaging and industry/academia, and offers advice to conference attendees.

Scott Shenker wins 2017 ACM Paris Kanellakis Theory and Practice Award

Prof. Scott Shenker has been named the 2017 ACM Paris Kanellakis Theory and Practice Award recipient.   The award honors specific theoretical accomplishments that have had a significant and demonstrable effect on the practice of computing.   Shenker is honored for pioneering contributions to fair queueing in packet-switching networks, which had a major impact on modern practice in computer communication. His work was fundamental to helping the internet grow from a tool used by a small community of researchers to a staple of daily life used by billions.   Previous winners of this award include EECS Chair Prof. James Demmel and Prof. Emeritus Robert Brayton.